Friday, November 30, 2007

Verbally Abusing Women: What if she really does ask for it?

This morning I had the most surreal experience of the past month, if not the last year. A friend who's taking a speech class asked if I would help her in Friday's class. I said sure, while thinking I would probably be asked to chance slides or something while the main speech was going on.

How wrong I was.

She explained that she was going to have a skit to proceed her speech, and I was to be the other half. Yay! A fun scene. I haven't had much of that in the past 10 years, since leaving behind the drama classes and play productions. But this dialog was different. In it, she played herself; at least, herself as she was a few years ago, at the height of her struggle with an eating disorder. I was playing the personification of the eating disorder. I was the nasty disparaging voice she heard that always told her she wasn't good enough.

This isn't going to be the fun lark-in-the-park I first anticipated.

My part consisted of being relentlessly cruel and abusive towards her for ten lines or so, with her meekly acknowledging the verbal abuse I pile on. I called her fat, called her a bitch, and showed general disgust for how much of a "fucking fat-ass loser" she is.

You may or may not know this, but I'm not a person who swears gratuitously. I know many people who use "colorful metaphors" as flavor text, using them as the only operational adjective in the vocabulary. I'm not that guy. If I have to resort to swearing, I've kinda admitted defeat; that's the way I perceive it. I should be able to make my displeasure or disbelief completely apparent without using words that may shock and offend some people. I suppose that would make me prim, by some people's standards.

I hesitated accepting this role, because I wasn't sure I wanted to be berating one of my friends. It's not something I'm comfortable with. When I asked her if she wanted to have an image of me berating her in her mind from now on, she responded with confidence. She said that one of the reasons she asked me to do it was BECAUSE she knew that I was not the sort of person who would ever say these words and mean them. That's a fine compliment which humbled me, so the least I could do was call her a fat bitch in recompense. I think I got the better end of the stick.

Anyway, we went to class this morning and I stood towering over her, raining invective on her. It's acting, at it's very finest. I never doubted that I'd be able to say the words, but I did doubt whether or not it was a good idea. I had another flash of that as I was throwing scorn at her. Right about the time I was telling her she was a waste of space and friendships, she (having had downcast eyes since the beginning) subtly tucked her chin towards her shoulder in an even bigger display of submission and self-worthlessness. And all the warning lights in my brain came on again. Brightly flashing.

I started shaking with a combination of adrenaline-fueled exertion and quasi-yelling, and a giddy sense of the entire room starting to roll clockwise. I stopped holding my index cards with both hands, but with only a single hand, it was shaking too violently to read. Back to two hands.

In a half-second, my superego came back and calmed me a little bit, reminding me that it was just make-believe. We finished the dialog and I sat down while the actual speech occurred. I had to grasp hands with myself just to keep the anxiety from making me drum my fingers.

I'm still of two minds on it. The actor in me loved the chance to get to be something I'm not; to embrace a character who is completely outside my experience. That's what draws me into acting in the first place, and this was an outstanding exemplar.

But the friend in me gets nauseated from saying those things to a friend. Or anyone at all, really, even in fun. I can be hurtful. I can say hurtful things. I certainly have before. But each time, it leaves me hollowed out. Each time, I broke a little something inside of me. I felt that little twinge that happens when you go contrary to your nature. And being asked to do it on demand fills me with an initial reaction of "no way." Because on some level I can't set it aside.

After I finished, my friend instantly raised her head, smiled, and said "Thanks." That was enough to break the pall. I remembered that it was all water off the proverbial duck. Hateful words, but not heartfelt from my end, and of (hopefully) little-to-no impact on her end. Thank goodness she smiled, or I'd have been trapped in a self-designed prison of compromised principles.

She offered to buy me dinner as a thank-you, so you can be sure this episode ranks right at the top of the most bizarre and disturbing things that have ever earned me free food.

Monday, November 26, 2007

A Self-Evaluation Cascade

I love writing blog entries that make people comment. Some people give verbal feedback ("I so agree!") and some give written feedback ("Here's my annotated list why you're wrong and you suck"). Occasionally, people who write blogs respond by writing entries that reference me directly, regarding something I said. The entry then spins off into whatever they have to say about that subject or into other areas altogether. It's all very flattering, mainly because I love the idea that something I say causes other people to ponder a particular point.

This time, it's come full circle. Last Tuesday morning, I wrote THIS about a beautiful woman and beauty in general. Then I left town to begin my Thanksgiving holiday. That entry figured tangentially into Minx's entry of the same day, located HERE. In much the same fashion, this entry I'm writing now touches on some of the issues raised in my mind after reading her entry. Everybody confused? Super; let's begin.

Beauty is a hot topic in our culture. We're in the middle of a continuing skirmish between physical beauty and other types of beauty (which are often described only by focusing on characteristics other than physicality). In the beginning, based on the aesthetics of the time, there was a Thought: pretty people are fun to look at. Then came Counter-Thought: we're focusing too much on pretty people; what about everyone else? Then came Counter-Counter-Thought: all well and good, but sex still sells advertising, and we're here to make money. CCCT: You're shallow. CCCCT: You're jealous.

And so on.

Immediately after reading Minx's entry, I started thinking about myself: am *I* beautiful? The thought came because I was reading her descriptions of how she perceives herself: as an invisible woman. Socially invisible, that is, neither hideous nor jaw-droppingly gorgeous enough to stand out from the crowd.

It's very difficult for me to contemplate my own beauty. It seems very vain and rather like writing one's own letter of recommendation: how do I be honest? The other difficulty is that I'm bad at evaluating the attractiveness of my gender, having had little practice.

I'm tall, which statistically works out to a plus. Women usually prefer men who are taller than they are. I'm overweight, which should be a minus. However, I think I get partial credit for "carrying it well", as has been said to me many times. I think this is code for "still looks OK".

I usually have a beard. This has been referred to by women as either a plus or a minus. People have commented that my face is the right shape for a beard, but others have said that it looks silly on me. We'll call this even, as there's no compelling opinion one way or the other, and it's about as easy to have a beard as NOT have one.

Oh, and I'm balding. Bald may be appealing in some people (Patrick Stewart or Yul Brynner), but the half-hearted in-between stages aren't really appealing to anybody.

Personality: Now we get into the hard stuff. I'm known as being intelligent, which is a plus. I'm know as being caring; also positive. Add witty and reliable to the positive heap. I'm known as being acerbic, oblivious, and unmotivated. Sometimes overly sarcastic. Those all go in the minus column.

I could go on picking at myself, but that's not my real goal. In my experience, I'm not handsome enough to tempt people to just come up to me and introduce themselves. My appeal seems to be mostly contained in my personality and other parts of my brain. This has always been... well, not a point of pride exactly... more like a confirmation of the way the world should be run. I've always been very pleased to be valued for what I have to offer, rather than looking good while doing it.

This leads to an interesting result when I've been complimented on my looks. When significant others and just-plain others have told me that I look handsome or pretty, it seems to read in my mind as an affirmation of who I am. My brain doesn't really treat it is "I look good", but more as "My total package is very appealing." In order for me to actually feel physical compliments, they have to be bordering on unromantically specific. ("I really like your nose; it compliments the strong frame of your eyebrows and chin.")

I don't think I'd know what to make of someone who considered me beautiful. My view of my own beauty is so transitory and frankly optional, that I'd be concerned that the people would quickly lose sight of whatever it was they saw. Not only that, but I'd be on unfamiliar ground. Relationships that fluctuate based on what stupid things I say: I can handle that. But something based off of something I can't control, to a large degree? Unsettling.

So, I'm thinking I'm not generally handsome. Just somewhere in the middle. Of course, for a guy, this is completely acceptable. All our sitcoms and celebrities reinforce the idea that middling men can have bombshell women. The Simpsons, King of Queens, Everybody Loves Raymond, Family Guy, Roger Rabbit, Billy Joel, Lyle Lovett, K-Fed, Dennis Kucinich, Donald Trump, and the list goes on and on.

So, by that scale, I'm doing well. I'm intelligent, industrious about my industry, and passionate about my ... er... passions. And society tells me that's enough. I've said it before, and it bears repeated proclamation: I've found it laughably easy to be a decent guy. Men who behave badly make such huge waves that it becomes trivially simple to just be nice.

And in the absence of smacktacular beauty, being nice is a wonderful substitute for a guy. I don't know why it doesn't work that way for women, but I'd imagine it has something to do with "default perceptions". Mainly that women are ALREADY supposed to be nice, so if they're trying to hang their hat on that, it's not going to be noticed. Lucky for me, the standards for men are in a completely different scale. It's easy for me to do the limbo when I can just walk under the 12 foot bar. I wonder why so many other people have trouble?

Of course, smart women aren't merely content to just obtain decency from their partner before matrimony. So I can't afford to rest on my laurels. I've got to get out there and advertise. Otherwise all the savvier gentlemen will act in my place.

P.S. The included self-photo at the top was one of several I took while trying to find a picture to send to my place of employment. It's among the worst of the lot, with my face completely washed of color, double chin showing, great expanse of forehead, and a very strange expression on my face. I include it because this may or may not be how I look most of the time. Obviously, I'd look better under better lighting and with a friendlier angle, but wouldn't we all? This is just me as I am.

This second picture was taken 30 days prior, and looks much more like I think "I" look.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Beautiful Woman's Geis

One of my good friends has a serious social problem. This problem effects all aspects of her interaction with people. Few days go by before she is once again reminded of her liability.

She's beautiful.

Seriously and profoundly gorgeous, even. She receives a lot of attention because of it, and a lot of that attention is negative. No woman I know is more likely to provoke an after-the-fact response than she, just by virtue of passing through a room.

To be certain, many of the guys are single, and who better to reflect on a beautiful woman? But some people have girlfriends and wives, yet still they comment. This used to trouble me, but I've shoved it aside in the past few years. I think part of it has to do with fitting in. Nobody wants to hear about how much people love their wives; that sort of talk inspires envy in other men. But everyone can rally around the idea of appraising a woman who nobody has a chance at. There's a (reluctant) distance of impartiality. So when all men, single or otherwise, can put their heads together and agree on something, it creates bonding.

I'm sure there's an element of "fly on the wall" wistfulness when we think about the conversations that the other sex has once we leave the room. We all have a curiosity to know what the other gender thinks about us. From my experience, men only vocalize physical appreciation when amongst other men. You will hear "Wow, does she fit into that sweater!", not "Did you hear how efficiently she gave directions?"

Interestingly, some men do have more mundane appreciations of women's non-physical characteristics, but the men must be prompted before they'll reveal them. "She seemed really nice" and "it's flattering that she shows interest in me" and "man, she's smart... and shouldn't consider someone like me" may get thought, but remain unvoiced. It's a pride thing, I bet.

So back to my friend. Whether she knows it or not, she leaves lots of lustful guys in her wake. Many is the time she's passed left a small conversation only to have one of the guys look longingly at her retreating figure, mumbling something lecherous. This sort of talk annoys me in a way I have a hard time defining: she's not my sister nor my girlfriend, but I still feel guys should keep those sort of comments to themselves. It seems very rude to me, especially considering the comments are only directed to the other guys, who are supposed to nod reflectively, adding their own similes.

I'm not immune to her effects, by any means. It's not that her looks are intimidating, as I often hear beautiful women described. I feel no intimidation or subjugation. What I do feel is distracted when I try to have a conversation with her. Honestly, I just haven't been around that many beautiful people, so it's rather difficult to ignore when it's two feet from my face. In addition, there is something inherently flattering, too. Here she is, talking to me: aren't I lucky! I assumed it was far better odds that she would NOT talk to me, so here I am, beating the spread!

I realize that this whole article skirts the edge of satire, but I'm trying to be serious about this; it is a problem for her. She's mentioned to me that she feels continual scrutiny during her day. She can feel the eyes of the world staring at her when her back is turned. She can't help hearing the rapid intake of breath if she bends over to pick up a notebook, even though when she turns around, no one is looking at her. She can't go anywhere or do anything without it being examined.

I must admit a certain perverse pleasure in eating with her in restaurants, because one can't help but laugh when people start taking the long way to the bathroom just to pass by the table. Or to scan around the room and count the number of eyes I can see looking back in our general direction. I would imagine this phenomena is like a small-scale version of what it's like to eat dinner with a celebrity, and have the entire cafe wondering if they're seeing the girl who did that thing in that movie; you know, the movie with the horse and talking cow?

So how does she escape? She puts on a pair of sunglasses and a nondescript jacket. Then she vanishes from the plateau of Aphrodite into the crowds of middle-America. Obviously, when she tries to look presentable, there's nothing she can do to stop people from talking about her and staring. There are people who like watching her rummage in her locker, and drink from the water fountain, and push an audio/visual cart around, and a ton of other completely harmless and non-sexual things. She's the sort of person who probably gets her picture taken surreptitiously by camera phones often, without even realizing.

Perhaps part of the allure is that everyone knows she's totally committed to her current boyfriend, and really has eyes only for him. She's a safe target because she's completely unavailable. Strangely, there's been very little envy directed towards this fellow, possibly because he's a good guy and nobody wants to be "that guy" who tries to steal someone from someone else.

But knowing today's society, I think that might be a foolishly optimistic appraisal. Just yesterday, a friend was telling the story of how his girlfriend cheated on him with his ex-best friend. He had a host of names for her, but "The Scavenger" is the only one I can recall that didn't have swearing in it. She's accounted to be a beauty, this "Scavenger", but all he sees in her now are the lies. Eye of the beholder, indeed.

NOTE: The picture accompanying this entry is a painting depicting a rusalka. The rusalka is a spirit from Slavic folklore who lives in a lake or river, enticing men to their doom with her unnatural beauty.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Contentedness Is Warm Oatmeal

I spent this morning's breakfast wearing comfortable pajamas and eating hot oatmeal. I am now in an excellent mood.

I don't tend to make much use of my heat. I can get away with this because the windows are good quality and trap a lot of heat. Also, I wear clothing in layers and have many blankets around. Currently, the outdoor temperature is about 46, and the indoor is right at about 61.

I keep my "domain" this chilly to save money and energy. Many days, I don't spend a great deal of time here. I used to switch off the heater, but then I'd have trouble remembering to turn it on when it's subzero. As a compromise, I set the thermostat as low as it can go (59 degrees) and leave it there.

For the most part, my body is excellent at maintaining its temperature. I can be pleasantly warm in most climates. But to show me that nothing is for certain, my body also very rarely gets "cold flashes" where it isn't possible for me to get warm enough. Perhaps this is some sort of balance for menopausal women everywhere. When I'm seized with this chill, I'm unable to warm myself, no matter how many blankets I'm under, clothes I'm wearing, or people I'm snuggling with.

What's also strange is that it's one of the few times in my life when I feel small. Not that I'm small from huddling for warmth (though that also happens), but when I'm cold, I just feel like there's less of me. I feel thin, like the wind passes right through me, and I feel that wind has blown away most of me, like sand from a castle. It's rather unnerving, adding psychophysical strangeness to an already-agitated body.

All this describing is making me cold! Time for a hot shower, preceding the final opera performance.

Friday, November 16, 2007

"Aren't there any *nice* girls at that school?"

While I was home, I showed my parents a formal picture of me sitting in with a local band. I'm there on the right; just follow the glare from the big forehead! All of us look good, in our matching outfits. My mom looked at the picture and said, "Oh, there you are."

And seemingly in the same breath, she said, "That's a cute girl," pointing to the girl standing behind the tympani. I bob my head noncommittally. She consults my middle brother for a second opinion. He also nods, making vaguely-positive mumblings. If my father were involved in this conversation, his next question would be, "Is she single?" My response, an honest "I don't know. I don't really know her," would be met with a scoff of slack-jawed disbelief. "Just get out there and say 'Hi'!"

My father is always looking out for me. Whenever my parents visit for concerts or recitals, he usually spots someone on the stage who'd be a "possible" girlfriend. "That girl in the back; she's pretty." These observations always seem brought up as though I've got myself buried so far in books and solo pieces that I've never REALLY looked at any of the women who surround me on a daily basis.

This declaration of girl-noticing is actually a rather large unasked question. When my parents say, "That girl is cute," it's their way of saying, "so how come you aren't dating her?" I'm sure most parents quiz their children about their romantic lives, eager to know if anybody's going to be brought home to meet the parents. Then wanting to know when the engagement will be. Then the wedding. Then the children. Then the next visit!

If I point out that that pretty girl in the back is engaged to one of the trumpet players, my dad will say "hmm", in a way that means either "Engaged, eh? Doesn't that sound like fun?" or "So you hesitated and missed your chance with that one, huh?" depending on the prevailing wind.

I love my parents dearly, but I hope they understand that those thoughts rattle around in my head all day. It's really not possible to be single and NOT continually walk around in this cloud of your own thoughts about relationships and attractive people. As they say, nobody thinks more about relationships than the people who aren't in one, but want to be.

Which is why, when I saw a cute girl earlier this evening, all I could think about was my father's voice saying "Does it hurt to say 'hello'?" Of course, it doesn't hurt. Unless uncomfortable anxiety counts; does it count?

But it also didn't get me any closer to figuring out if she's single. I'm saving that for the next meeting, which will no doubt begin with "Hello. Again."

I'm suave that way.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Life in the Pit

It's time for the fall opera. It's a big deal at the university, involving many different departments who don't usually have anything to do with each other. There's a set-building crew, there's vocalists everywhere, and there's 30-40 musicians trapped under the stage, wondering what's happening above their heads.

Last year's opera was "Susannah", loosely based on the story from the apocryphal story of Susannah and the Elders. It ends with people being killed and betrayed. This year, to find something lighter, "La Boheme" was chosen. It ends with people being betrayed and dying, an important difference; there's no malicious killing in this new opera. "La Boheme" has one of the two main opera plots: people fall in love, then die. Compare with "Le Nozze di Figaro", where people fall in love, then get married.

We did a week of rehearsals by ourselves, with just the orchestra learning the music. The next week was devoted to having the various cast members come to sing their parts, to get the feel of working with the orchestra. This week has been all the final staging and run-throughs. Tomorrow night (Wednesday) is the final dress rehearsal for the "Friday/Sunday" cast, and performances start on Thursday night.

We're playing a reduced wind orchestration, which means there's only two trombone instead of four, two horns instead of four, etc. In spite of the reduced numbers, we're still all crowded in. I'm actually in the doorway leading out of the pit, sitting on a different level than everyone else. I'll try to remember to bring my camera, because it's funny.

It's always strange to sit in a pit and play for an unseen spectacle. We hear women (and men) screaming, people laughing, lots of clomping around, breaking glass, slamming doors, and every once and a while, flakes of fake snow come raining into the pit onto our stands. All this happens as we're steadily moving from "Number 26" to "Number 27", so it's a bit dry on our end.

The music is good, of course. There's a reason this is one of the 5 most performed operas. But we can't really play loud, as we'd easily overwhelm the singers, even in our reduced form. So, the nights playing eventually comes to feel like you're singing while wearing a ski-mask; some sound gets through, but it's a little confusing for the listener. I spend a great portion of my time with a mute in and at ppp. In fact, I'll go so far to say that I have never played a piece with so much time spent in-mute. It's certainly above 80%.

More updates as we approach the first downbeat.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Armistice Day

As I was writing in the date for the previous entry, I noticed today was the 11th day of the eleventh month. Further, I was writing it during the eleventh hour.

In 1918, that particular time was the start of the ceasefire ending World War I. 1.1% of the world's population died as a direct result of the fighting. That would be close to 70 million people by today's population.

The last man to die in battle in France during World War One was a Canadian, shot dead by a sniper at 10:58 AM.

(Less than) 55 Questions Answered

1. Is your second toe longer than your first?
No, both my feel slope from big to little toe.

2. Do you have a favorite type of pen?
Calligraphy pens. I love any kind of pen that slightly scratches along the paper

3. Look at your planner for May 14, what are you doing?
I don't think there's anything on that day. Seven months away?

4. What color are your toenails usually?
Slightly translucent, and that what color they ALWAYS are. Unless I've just stubbed my toe.

5. What was the last thing you highlighted?
I can't remember the last time. Years, certainly. I don't own any highlighters, and it's been a very long time since I've used them for anything. I thought about this when I was watching other people studying for comps and using them, realizing that I can't remember the last time I've touched one.

6. What color are your bedroom curtains?
Off-white venetian blinds.

7. What color are the seats in your car?
Um, tan. Except for the various stains.

8. Have you ever had a black and white cat?
No. Grey, orange, brown, dark brown, and so on.

9. What is the last thing you put a stamp on?
I mailed my $100 check to the symphony to secure a slot in the audition.

10. Do you know anyone who lives in Wyoming?

11. Why did you withdraw cash from the ATM the last time?
I pulled out money from an ATM to pay for tolls on a recent trip to and from Topeka.

12. Who was the last baby you held?
I'm sure it was Alana, who may also be the most recent baby I know of. My shirt fell victim to a leaky diaper for my trouble.

13. Do you know of any twins with rhyming names?
I know very few twins, and none of them have rhyming names.

14. Do you like Cinnamon toothpaste?
I certainly don't mind it. I'm assuming this is talking about Close-up, which is the only cinnamon paste I know of. It's a valued memory from my childhood. I get taken back every time I happen to use it.

15. What kind of car were you driving 2 years ago?
The same car I currently have: my sturdy Accord.

16. Pick one: Miami Hurricanes or Florida Gators:
Neither sound like nice things to be around. And yes, I know they're sports teams, not harmful disasters.

17. Last time you went to Six Flags?
Hmm, it was a few years ago... though I can't remember the reason. I think a friend had an extra ticket. It's all been downhill since my father's old employer stopped renting out the park for a day. Such short lines!

18. Do you have any wallpaper in your house?
None. Everything is a neutral off-white. I have to compensate with wall art.

19. Closest thing to you that is yellow:
The cover of the local Yellow Pages is blue... I mean, yellow.

21. Who is the last person you wrote a check to?
A pianist, for services rendered regarding a trombone studio class.

22. Closest framed picture to you?
I have a framed print of a picture of Kylemore Abbey in Ireland.

23. Last time you had someone cook for you?
Let's see. I visited my parents last weekend, and they put fresh vegetables on store-bought pizza, but I don't think that counts. It was probably whenever I was visiting them previously.

24. Have you ever applied for welfare?
Never. Also, never unemployment. I wouldn't know where to begin, but it would probably start with internet research, which seems laden with irony.

25. How many emails do you have?
Assuming this is referring to individual emails, I have hundreds. A friend and I discovered two different ways to deal with them, as my mail tends to remain in the INBOX folder, while hers gets systematically shuffled to sub-folders relating to sender or subject. She became apoplectic when I told her my inbox currently consisted of 347 messages.

26. Last time you received flowers?
Boy, I can't recall a single specific incident in my entire life. Though, I do have a memory of a fairly recent occurrence where someone picked a dandelion and gave it to me. I don't remember when it was, though.

27. Do you think the sanctity of marriage is meant for only a man and a woman?
Wow, a heavy question! And here, I was filling this thing out to avoid heavy questions. Short answer, NO, if marriage is the civil arrangement. Long answer, SOMETIMES, if marriages are defined as the blessings of a particular religious faith.

28. What kind of milk do you drink?
I suppose it's 2%, though I only really DRINK milk with cookies or other deserts.

29. Do you play air guitar?
No, and I also don't play air trombone or air piano.

30. Do you take anything in your coffee?
Hold the cream, sugar, sweetener, milk, ... and the coffee.

31. Do you have any Willow Tree figurines?
I assume these are some sort of toy. I don't own any of these. However, I do own a celtic rune that is the glyph for willow, which represents wisdom, longevity, and acceptance.

32. Have you ever owned a Beanie Baby?

33. Last person you spoke to from high school?
I suppose that would be Matt. If we count emails, I've been in contact with several other high school friends who have recently contacted me on Facebook.

34. Last time you used hand sanitizer:
It's been years. My parents used to keep some in the kitchen, but I never really got used to using it. I don't use lotion, so it felt strange to be putting something all over my hands that I wasn't going to wash off.

36. What color are the blinds in your living room?
Same off white as are in all the windows.

37. What is in your inbox at work?
The schedule and attendance sheet for my students.

38. Last thing you read in the newspaper?
The news. I usually sit and read the paper from front to back, not counting classifieds or real estate listings.

39. What was the last pageant you attended?
Probably the Miss Webster Pageant 8 or 10 years ago. It's my hometown competition that coincides with the Fourth of July celebration. I think I had friends running.

40. Where is the last place you bought pizza from?
The grocery, frozen food isle.

41. Have you ever worn a crown?
Only the Burger King crowns. And only because people like to see how silly Andy looks in them.

42. What is the last thing you stapled?
I stapled together my exam answers right before I turned them in.

43. Did you ever drink Clear Pepsi?
If I did, it wasn't very memorable.

44. Are you ticklish?
Yep. Feet, around my waist (for whatever reason), and the roof of my mouth, which is the most statistically "ticklish" part of the human anatomy. Now you know!

45. Last time you saw fireworks?
This past Fourth of July.

46. Last time you had a Krispy Kreme doughnut?
Sometime within the two years, probably. I don't buy donuts, but on occasion there have been some at functions or other receptions.

47. Who is the last person that left you a message?
Tony Bennett! He called to tell me that he could be heard on one of the local radio stations singing Christmas music. Let me tell you, I was surprised.

48. Last time you parked under a carport?
Under a carport? I can't recall. I park each night in a garage, if that's what they're looking for.

49. Do you have a black dog?
No, nor do I have any other color of dog.

50. Do you have any pickles in your fridge?
At least two varieties.

51. Are you an aunt or uncle?
No. I do have cousins who have kids, but I don't think that makes me anything.

52. Who has the prettiest eyes that you know of?
This is a puzzle. On one hand, to really see a person's eyes, one needs to get very close to them. I don't have anyone that I regularly see that close, as that's a fairly intimate position. But the same closeness can been seen in photographs, which can be of people I've never met before. Doing a random image search of "pretty eyes" yields many eyes that are very pretty, which is a very unromantic answer, I know.

53. Last time you saw a semi truck?
I see them driving everywhere in town, and I live close to the highway, too. Also whenever I drive across the state.

54. Do you remember Ugly Kid Joe?
No. I have no idea who this is, but he had cruel friends at school. That's for sure.

55. Do you have a little black dress?
No. Though I do have a little black address which is attached to my front door. To be honest, I'm not a fan of black dresses, even though they're supposedly the Swiss Army Knife of women's clothing. It looks good on Audrey Hepburn in that iconic picture from "Breakfast at Tiffany's". Perhaps that's too high of a standard for black dress appreciation.

You might be a dictator if...

...mysterious masked gunmen open fire on non-violent protests by your opposition.


Saturday, November 10, 2007

Incoming Sickness

I woke up this morning much like other mornings. I was caught somewhat off guard by a awful lot of drool on my pillow. If I lived with a big dog, this might be no surprise. Unfortunately, even though I live with no pets, the true meaning still isn't a surprise. It's always a warning sign that I'm sick, since having a stuffed up nose and constricted throat forces me to breath through my mouth.

Sure enough, after I started moving around, I felt the particular brand of tightness in my throat. I was beginning to experience what I associate with "being sick", which is a strange condition that happens once or twice a year. I'm sure that sounds facetious, but I'm quite serious: whenever I get sick, it always seems to be varying intensity of the same complaint. It always involves a stuffed up nose, raised body temperature, and sore throat. I'm sure there's a way to classify this as a cold or other seasonal malady, but I just know it as sickness.

It comes and goes, and I have yet to be able to pin it on anything. I'm not consistently around sick people when it happens, I've been very good at washing my hands lately, and my diet is swinging back over to "healthy". In fact, if there's a good time to be sick, this is it. I have very little to accomplish in the next week, other than nightly opera rehearsals. Hopefully if I just lay low and avoid licking doorknobs, I'll be fine by the time Thanksgiving rolls around.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Doh! A deer!

Coming home this evening, the road was foggy. Around one corner, I suddenly found myself driving towards a deer in my lane. The deer was clearly doing less than the posted minimum, and also seemed to be operating without headlights. As I approached, the deer stopped moving altogether. I slowed to a stop, but the deer still showed no signs of forward motion.

Just wanting to get home, I honked my horn. That did the trick, and soon I was on my way again. I tell you, if deer can't be bothered to pass safety inspections and proper road safety protocols, I don't think they should be allowed on the roads.

I know it's a controversial position, but I stand by it. The buck stops here, and that's turning out to be a driving hazard!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Oh, yes. Now I remember...

I sat at home tonight.

Things gradually fell together in such a way that nothing was going on this evening. I was able to spend time cooking dinner. I ate it watching a movie. I finished it off with the last remains of a container of ice cream (about 10 spoonfuls). Then I made a cup of tea.

And I smiled after everything. I smiled each and every time I walked past the indoor/outdoor thermometer, noting the falling temperatures. I actually chuckled out loud when the temperature finally fell below 32 degrees; chuckled in the way people do when something long awaited happens. Because I'm a strange guy, the falling temperatures make me happy. I thrive on it, in a way that never fails to make people laugh at me, because of my boyish enthusiasm for biting winds, falling temperatures, and overcast skies.

I was alone, which is certainly not surprising. I've spent the better part of most of the previous four year's nights alone. What is surprising is that everyone else missed out on a good time. I certainly enjoyed myself immensely, eating good food and relaxing in a way I haven't been able to do a whole lot of.

And yes, it is a Tuesday night, when most people are saving up for their weekend partying. Or even still recovering from their previous weekend partying. I wrote a letter today, another activity I enjoy. The groove was somewhat lost in a tedious rehearsal, but I recovered well enough by nightfall (which now comes before dinner, since the DST change).

Shortly after my exams, I received a very nice note. A friend who moved away from town to embrace her inner fabulousness sent me a email to let me know she was doing well. Actually, a stranger reading the letter wouldn't think she was well: she speaks of not really knowing anyone in her new town, speaks of missing all her friends she left behind, and mentions that she's no longer seeing her "boyfriend", even though they still have feelings for each other. Doesn't that sound like she's having a great time?

What most people won't realize is that simply by writing, she's communicating a sense of comfort. She never writes when she's depressed, only when she's ruminating. She mentions a particular conversation she and I had over falafel and baklava, where she felt so smothered by the expectations of her relationships she could hardly speak. For worse or (hopefully) better, she has finally made a choice; a choice to stop sitting on the fence, torn in several directions. Relationship or not? One guy or the other? Safety or adventure? Admiration or passion? And perhaps most importantly, does she feel like her own person, making choices she believes in, or just someone who only reacts to other people? If a person has no definite opinions about what direction to proceed, it's very easy to be lead by others who seem to have a good idea where they're going.

She's a good girl, which is a comment I don't intend to be condescending. She's intelligent, talented, and cares deeply about other people. She also lacks an ability to assert herself and a tendency to place herself in situations she doesn't want to be, simply to avoid disappointing people. She seeks a calm place inside her own self, trying to set aside all the things that just don't matter.

She also wrote to tell me that she still reflects on all the conversations we had. Like so many other people nowadays (including me), she embraced the opportunity to talk to someone who would actually listen. I am never quite prepared about how much that means to people. When I have the opportunity to talk to someone who actually listens to what I'm saying, and reads my body language, and understands about the things I *don't* say, it's a relief. An exhalation of some unwittingly held breath, somehow.

If this were a Hollywood screenplay, she (stunningly beautiful and coquettishly shy) and I (an inexplicably muscled busboy who's actually an oil tycoon) would both realize that we're made for each other, and, after approximately 90 minutes of spilled food and obnoxious "best friends" played by comedic actors, we'd end up kissing while sitting under a fountain. As the credits crawled across the screen, the audience would be basking in the assumption that we'd end up married and happily ever after.

That's on screen. Out here in reality, it's quite a bit different. She is attractive, certainly, with eyes that have a mosaic-pattern of green, brown, and gold. In spite of that, however, we're not made for each other. She has long-term independence and trust issues. I'm mired in contemplation of my own magnificence while trying to stay away from as many people as I can. Not to mention there isn't any romantic attachment to begin with. It's the un-match of the season!

Still, we seek each other out because we appreciate each other's company. In the game of "man and woman", it's nice to have a break now and then. Plus, it's never boring to hear what someone else thinks about things I feel are important.

I got a bit distracted from what was supposed to be an entry about how relaxed I was following a meal and repose. It should be obvious that one of the things I do when I'm relaxed is think and, more recently, blog. I'm going to ramp up entry publishing, trying to make up for the previous light month. I'd like to get back to a once-a-day or every other day schedule. We'll see how that goes!